Photography provided by Minneapolis Institute of Art

Spring has sprung, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art is kicking things off right. Ahead of this year’s Art in Bloom taking place April 11-14, we chatted with event co-chair Barb Champ, who shared with us the history of the annual celebration, all the events happening throughout the weekend and how Art in Bloom connects art with the larger Twin Cities community.


Can you describe the history of Art in Bloom?

Art in Bloom is a great example of how art inspires. More than 36 years ago, the president of the Friends of the Institute, Phyllis Colwell, visited the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which was holding the first-ever Art in Bloom event. She returned eager to make this happen at Mia. She was a determined advocate with a bold vision who persuaded her Friends board and Mia’s then director, Sam Sachs, to give this a try. The first Art in Bloom fundraising event here raised $40,000 based almost entirely on word-of-mouth publicity. Based on this success, Art in Bloom became an annual tradition.

How does the art within the museum play a role in Art in Bloom?

Without Mia’s masterpieces, there would be no Art in Bloom. More than 160 volunteer pedestal floral artists create floral interpretations of artwork throughout the museum. Each piece of art serves as the inspiration, the liftoff and the backdrop for each floral artist’s work. Some floral pieces are direct visual reflections, some are complementary and some are deeply conceptual. Essentially, each floral piece offers a new, original connection between museum guests and that work of art.

What are some of the exciting events taking place throughout the weekend?

This year, we’re thrilled to offer events that speak to a variety of interests each day of Art in Bloom. Beyond the chance to freely roam the galleries, discover the flowers and catch some free guided tours, there will also be a spectacular preview party Wednesday evening right in the main second floor gallery hallway amidst the fresh floral arrangements.

Our Thursday lecture is by a young, internationally acclaimed and dynamic botanical floral artist, Joseph Massie. He’ll also be leading a make-and-take floral master class alongside some noted local instructors. A tip: These classes tend to sell out every year, as does our annual fashion show and luncheon showcasing spring trends from the Galleria, so get your tickets early!

Bachman’s continues to throw a big party, Flowers After Hours, on Thursday evening, including a presentation of floral couture based on artwork in the museum and emceed by WCCO’s Jason DeRusha. This tradition is always popular, with a party atmosphere and a cash bar.

By popular demand, we’re also partnering with Norseman Distillery to offer craft cocktail classes with a floral theme as well as cocktail receptions in the evenings. And our Art in Bloom shop just gets better every year, with one-of-a-kind finds and fantastic pieces for gifting and entertaining. We wind up on Sunday with a celebratory family day event that includes crafts, storytelling and entertainment.

How does this event benefit Mia?

First and foremost, Art in Bloom is an event that demonstrates how welcoming Mia is to all. From the enticing floral displays outside the building that communicate “Come in! Something wonderful is happening here!” to the broad array of offerings throughout the event, visitors understand that this is not only an enriching but an engaging, vibrant place.

Most people are not aware, however, that Art in Bloom is actually a vital fundraiser for the Friends of Mia to support the museum’s art collection and conservation as well as help fund world-class educational initiatives like summer camps and Art Adventure, which is proven to enhance kids’ critical thinking skills.

Each year, Friends of the Institute and Mia team up to put on this massive floral celebration at a time when many other museums are opting out of such large-scale events. The Friends feel grateful and proud to partner with Mia, one of the premier forward-thinking museums in the country.

Last year, Art in Bloom raised more than $200,000, which helped us provide busing to bring 7,000+ school kids to Mia from throughout the area. Our Friends Endowment for Education Fund also donates more than $80,000 annually to Mia’s Learning and Innovation Department. This year, we’re aiming even higher.

How does Art in Bloom connect with the larger Twin Cities community?

Last year, Art in Bloom drew more than 50,000 people from all over the region — from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area to North Dakota, Wisconsin and beyond. We know that many people make this an annual tradition, and every year, we meet parents visiting with their grown kids and grandkids, continuing this spring family tradition. We also meet people who have never been to Mia before, who are then welcomed and inspired to visit again.

This year, some of our Art in Bloom proceeds are also helping connect underserved communities to Mia, including funding community mural projects, providing transportation for Native American families living outside the metro area to visit an exhibit that features Native artists and also supplying materials so Mia can bring its acclaimed Art Adventure program to school kids in the museum’s immediate neighborhood.

What can guests expect to see at this year’s Art in Bloom?

They can expect, as always, to envelop their senses in all the floral signs of spring, which we embrace as a much-needed tonic here in Minnesota in April. No two floral interpretations are the same from year to year, so this year the galleries are once again filled with original floral art that only lasts a few days — but much longer on Instagram and in our hearts.

This year, we have also added another layer of excitement, as Art in Bloom coincides with the last weekend of the fabulous Egypt’s Sunken Cities exhibit at Mia. Without too much of a spoiler, we’ll just say that there are some impressive artifacts awaiting visitors right at the entrance, and the theme carries through to this year’s signature image, which happens to include some pyramids in the background.

Also new this year is our partnership with local interior designer Jay Nuhring, who shares his tips and ideas for bringing beauty into our everyday lives in the lifestyle section of the Art in Bloom program.